Florida senior quarterback John Brantley ripped out his rear-view mirror a long time ago, at least figuratively.
The only thing he sees is what’s straight ahead.
And judging by the way he’s performed this spring, there’s a lot to like about what lies ahead for Brantley and the Gators’ offense.
“I’m right back to where I was last spring,” Brantley said. “I’m as positive as I’ve ever been. This is the best thing for me, especially bringing coach (Charlie) Weis here. He’s got a great track record of developing great offenses and great quarterbacks. I couldn’t ask for a better situation.
“We’re going to do everything we can to get this offense back to where we all know it should be.”
Making that happen will require much better quarterback play than the Gators received last season.
It was a nightmarish first season for Brantley as the Gators’ starter. He looked uncomfortable and out of place in Urban Meyer’s spread offense, and he finished the season 10th in the SEC in pass efficiency. He threw more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (nine) and wound up sharing snaps with redshirt freshman Jordan Reed and true freshman Trey Burton.
As the season wore on, Brantley looked like a quarterback whose confidence was shot.
“We’ve put that behind us and are looking forward to what’s going on now,” said Brantley, who has zero interest in dissecting what all went wrong a year ago. “I look at it like we’re starting from scratch and going from there.”
First-year Florida coach Will Muschamp isn’t ready to officially name Brantley the starter, but it’s just a matter of time.
Brantley has taken Weis’ pro-style offense this spring and run with it. Obviously, the real test will be next fall, but he’s starting to look like the polished passer everybody was expecting when he took over the reins from Tim Tebow last year.
Of course, it helps when you’re in an offense that fits what you do best.
“This offense is going to be great, especially for me,” Brantley said. “I get to throw the ball downfield, and we’ve got a bunch of fast guys. We’re going to get the ball to them. All over the board, it’s going to be great, not just for me, but for a lot of other guys.”
Muschamp said following Tuesday’s practice that Brantley would be the Gators’ starter based on where they are right now. It’s not just that Brantley is the most experienced quarterback out there, but the way he’s put some punch back into Florida’s downfield passing game.
That part of the offense was virtually non-existent last season.
“I'm very pleased with how he's managing the football team and making plays down the field vertically,” Muschamp said. “I've been very pleased with what he's been able to do. John has had a good spring. He's playing well right now.”
Brantley, who considered transferring following last season, said the 2011 season isn’t about merely validating himself. He understands that skeptics remain and is fully aware of the stigma that was attached to him following the Gators’ struggles offensively a year ago.
Still, he says it’s a lot bigger than just him.
“I just want to be able to go out next season and try and help my team be successful,” Brantley said. “That’s all I’m going to try to do, and I trust Coach Muschamp and Coach Weis that they’re going to put us in the best position to do that.
“It’s up to me to follow through on the field.”